Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sea Power as Hedge against Chinese Adventurism – Part 1

The two Prime Minister-class submarines enables the Royal Malaysian Navy to punch above its weight (Source: RMN)

By M Hanif Ismail

In the olden days, sea power is often used as the measure of how powerful a nation state/empire/kingdom is. This is because sea power is often the means used by the said nation state to extend, impose and protect their influences on others.
With the advent of air power, intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads etc., one might think that that the importance of sea power has diminished. Perhaps that is true, but with the end of Cold War, the threats of nuclear war has diminished, and even the threats of war between two equals powers is now somewhat remote, although still possible in few hotspots around the world.
It is against this backdrop that almost all of the current and former world powers have let their sea power dwindled, some more so than the others. Almost all that is, except China. 

China as a New Sea Power
Along with the rise of its economic power, the world is also seeing the rise of China’s sea power. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is now operating its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and is working to add a few more in the near future. The new addition to the fleet is a closely watched development as an aircraft carrier will not only expand China’s defensive capabilities but also its offensive capabilities; it places China into a very short list of major powers with the ability to sustain sea and air operations far from home.  
Some may argue that China still have a long way to go to be able to do this safely and efficiently, but with the resources available to them, these are not really a major concern. Of course, having an aircraft carrier is only part of the equation. China is also modernising and adding new air defence frigates, landing platform docks, diesel submarines, nuclear submarines, long range “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles, etc. at a very fast clip. It can be said that PLAN is now without rival in the region; with the exception of the United States Navy.


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